Revji Patel was talking to one of the guests when he happened to glance at his daughter.She was sitting stiffly and he could see her fidgeting with the fabric of her veil.Once again he wondered,"Am I doing the right thing?"He had never been able to understand his eldest daughter...maybe because he had never cared to spend enough time with her.He was aware that he had never been for her.She had been a tiny little baby when his young wife passed away.She needed him then but he had been unable to look at her.In a way he had blamed her for his beloved wife being snatched away from him.She would look at him with her beautiful big eyes imploring him silently to take her in his arms.She never cried...never complained.It took him a couple of days to hold her in his arms.As the years passed she stopped looking at him with those big wide eyes craving for love and attention.He would often leave her with his family to go off on trips related to work because with each passing day everything about her reminded him of his dead wife.At the insistence of his family who felt that Gulaal needed a mother's love he remarried but that did not work out too well.Unfortunately his new wife seemed to dislike her the moment she laid eyes on her.Then Talli was born and soon became the darling of the household.Everyone doted on her and Gulaal in a way was pushed to the background.At that point a change seemed to come over Gulaal who by now had almost completely cut off herself from others and had retreated into her own little world. Everyone had been scared that she would be jealous of the baby but she wasn't.On the contrary she showered all of her love on her baby sister.She was fiercely protective of her and anyone who dared to make her baby sister cry had to deal with Gulaal's wrath.The normally reticent,soft spoken Gulaal would turn into a spitfire.Soon little Talli too began to feel the same about her di.Their bond perplexed his wife who did not want Gulaal anywhere near her daughter but he was secretly pleased that there was someone in the world who loved Gulaal unconditionally.He never could do that and so he was relieved a little.As he kept looking at her he felt a guilt envelop him.Maybe he should have asked her what she wanted...he should not have remained quiet when his wife was emotionally blackmailing her...but it was too late to have any regrets.He just hoped that she would be happy with Kesar.
Gulaal was in a daze.She could hear the girls sitting nearby teasing her,passing naughty remarks but she did not hear a thing.They were not her friends.They did not know what she was feeling.She had never wanted to marry in the first place.She had been perfectly happy living her life teaching little children.Their innocent and genuine faces always put a smile on her face but then her step mother did not give her any choice.She was not hoping for a Prince Charming and fall head over heels in love...no life had taught her there was no such thing called true love.She was a 28 year old girl and had long ago stopped believing in fairy tales but she wished to be married to a person who could be her friend. When she had met the guy for the first time she could immediately sense that something was not right.She could never see him as her life partner at all.She had tried to voice her concerns to her family but as usual her mother taunted her and her father...well he just ignored her.She wanted to talk to her sister,Talli.She would be able to understand her but then what could she do?
"arre yeh toh manhoos hai...",the words rang in her ears and she covered her ears to shut out the harsh words.She couldn't believe that people could be so cruel.The words were not new to her.She had been hearing them since she was a child.She knew that her own father believed her to be responsible for her mother's untimely death.She had learned to block them out most of time but today it hurt her listening to them whisper.Somewhere her confidence was shattered because that was the only expanation she could come up with as to why she did not protest about today's events.No one even cared to know what she wanted...not even Talli
She still could not get over the fact as that she had remained silent...she should have made more of a protest...made a scene...said no to the whole thing,but she could not and the only reason was her sister Talli.The moment her mother spoke about Talli's future she stopped thinking of herself.She loved her little sister more than anyone in the world.She would do anything for her.
"Di..di...kahaan kho gayi ho tum?chalo mere saath...",Talli got hold of her arms and started to push her through the crowd."kya hua Talli?kahaan le jaa rahi hai mujhe?",she asked as soon as they got to the corridor.Talli looked at her in disbelief as she replied,"Di...tum bhool gayi aaj tumhari shaadi hui hai...tum kya saari raat yehin isi tarah baithi rahogi...Kesar...sorry jeeju bechaare wahaan akele bore ho jaayenge na.." and then she burst into giggles.Gulaal's face became white as a sheet.She could feel her hands go cold.This had completely escaped her mind.She had not given any thought to Kesar who was now her husband."Di...main jaanti hoon tumhe yeh sab bahut ajeeb lag raha hai...par main tumse ek baat kahoon...main bahut khush hoon ki tumhari shaadi us doosre ladke se nahi hui...I did not like him at all and Kesar...main ise bahut ache se jaanti hoon di.woh bahut hi acha hai... tumhe bahut khush rakhega dekh lena.tum bilkul chintha math karo".With that Talli pushed her into the room and vanished immediately.
She could not believe that this was her room.It was almost unrecognizable.There were flowers strewn about everywhere.The bed seemed to be covered with them and some were hanging all around the bed.Gulaal hated it.Her room seemed to have lost it's identity...it's simplicity.As she looked around a picture of a scared Kesar entered her mind.She smiled as she remembered the time when Talli had brought him home for the first time four years ago.He was dressed in a white shirt and a faded jeans.His hair seemed to fall all over his forehead and he seemed allergic to shaving cause he had a slight stubble.He had this carefully cultivated unkempt look which Gulaal knew would drive the girls crazy.Of course she knew all about his reputation.Her sister had told her everything about him.She had been surprised when he tried the same tricks on her.He did not hesitate even for a second trying to charm her with his smile and sugary words.She did not fall for the act at all and still remembered the look on his face when she had threatened him with dire consequences if he tried to hurt Talli.After that he never tried to talk to her.He need not have worried because over time she had come to realize that he was a good guy after all.He had a good sense of humour.Many a time she had to stop herself from laughing at his jokes and antics.The biggest point in his favour was that he was a good friend to Talli.He cared for her.
Sometimes she did get the feeling that maybe his feelings for Talli went beyond platonic.She even broached the topic with Talli who just laughed it away saying,"Di...tum bhi na...Kesar aur Pyaar...Kesar sirf mera acha dost hai.main usse kabhi pyaar nahi kar sakti... ...aur waise bhi woh pyaar wyaar mein believe nahi karta..."That put an end to the discussion but she wanted to disagree with Talli on that last point because she had seen a wistfulness in his eyes and she was quite familiar with that emotion...it was a craving for love...but then what did she know about him?He was Talli's friend and she would know him better than her.
She had never ever imagined that one day the same guy would turn out to be her husband.Why did he do this?what was the reason behind this decision?She wanted to know.Why would he want to spend his whole life with a woman he disliked?Why?There were so many questions swimming around in her mind and she knew she would find peace only after getting some answers from him...her husband.
As Kesar made his way inside the room he saw Gulaal standing in a corner.He knew they needed to talk.Maybe that would clear away all confusions.He almost called out her name but it sounded so strange.He closed his mouth shut and realized that he had never addressed her directly except for the day they first met.He shivered as he remembered the meeting.He knew she was very important to Talli because she spoke about her "Di" all the time.He wanted to create a good impression on her.Of course he was confident that he would be able to get the elder sister of the girl he loved on to his side with ease.After all who could resist him?yet for the first time in his life he was slightly nervous which only increased after he met with her.He could never forget his first sight of her.She looked nothing like Talli.Her face looked severe.She was wearing a simple salwar kameez and she had her hair tied back in a tight ponytail.Well he was a guy so he could not help but notice that she had beautiful eyes and was pretty even without a speck of make up on... but she did not smile which made her seem intimidating.He was completely baffled that none of his lines were working on her and then Talli left the room to bring him water.As soon as she was out of ear shot Gulaal spoke in a low but menacing tone,"dekho Kesar...main tum jaise ladkon ko achi tarah se jaanti hoon...par yaad rakhna agar tumne meri behen to zara sa bhi hurt kiya na toh mujhse bura koi nahi hoga..."He had been so stunned that he could not even form a coherent reply.Talli had never told him that her sister was so scary.Just then Talli entered the room and it seemed as if the moment never happened.From then on he stayed away from Gulaal.No...He was not scared of her but somehow he did not want to get into her bad books.He had to admit that he respected her love for Talli and he did admire her a little.After all she was the first female who did not fall for his charm.
As a smile threatened to spread across his face at the memory he hesitantly cleared his throat which made Gulaal turn round hastily.The Veil was still covering her face but he could see that she looked confused.Before he could ask her anything she questioned him,"tumne aisa kyun kiya Kesar?...tumne aisa faisla kyun liya...tumne apni poori zindagi ka faisla itni aasani se kaise le liya?ek baar bhi nahi socha ki isse tumhari life kitni badal jaayegi...bolo...".He was expecting this but he had not thought that she would attack him with a volley of questions as soon as he entered the room.Somehow looking at her right now he felt a sense of calm as he replied,"patha nahi...mujhe nahi patha ki maine aisa kyun kiya...tab mujhe jo sahi laga maine wohi kiya...jaanta hoon is faisle se meri poori zindagi badal jaayegi...par ab jab agni ke saamne vachan liye hain toh unhe nibhaane toh padenge na..."He looked at Gulaal to see how she would respond but she remained quiet and so he continued,"dekho...Gu...Gu..Gulaal main jaanta hoon yeh sab bahut achanak se hua hai...yeh bhi jaanta hoon ki tum mujhe kuch khaas pasand nahi karti...lekin main itna bhi bura nahi hoon...main vaada karta hoon Gu...Gulaal ki tumhare ijazat ke bagair is rishte ko tum par kabhi nahi thopunga...hum dono hi is rishte ke liye tayyar nahi hain...par kya hum dost nahi ban sakte?"He walked towards her and held out his hand with a small expectant smile on his face.
Gulaal looked at him trying to understand him.She had seen the look of fear and regret on his face when he was sitting next to her during the rituals.Now listening to him talk, trying to rationalise everything that happened and extending his hand in friendship she was blown away.How could she say no to this gesture?Yes,they had a lot of things to discuss but that could wait.Quietly she extended her hand and held his in a firm handshake.She smiled when she saw his face transform into a wide grin."Ab to hum dost hain toh ek baat poochon",asked Kesar."haan poocho"she replied curious to know his question."tum kya poori zindagi aise ghoonghat mein hi rahogi...tumhe isse parashani nahi hogi kya?" She realized that she had been so lost in her thoughts she had completely forgotten about the veil and had not taken it off."main toh iske baare mein bhool hi gayi...apne khayaalon mein itni uljhi hui thi ki is par dhyaan hi nahi gaya",She laughed as she took the veil off her face.She did not hear any reply so she looked at Kesar who was standing there with a frozen smile on his face...